I work with people of all ages, but primarily I specialize in working with teens. Recently I have started getting many referrals for children and teens being bullied. The bullying itself is not a surprise, as bullying has become increasingly easy with newer technologies such as Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc. A growing concern I have is the sexual bullying that is growing increasingly abundant, and increasingly tolerated.
One of the kids I work with complained that he, along with many of the other larger kids in the school are being repeatedly harassed by other boys. The other boys are coming up behind the kids, grabbing their “man-breasts”, shaking them and making humping gestures. These same actions are being repeated to girls in the schools as well. I have confirmed that this is occurring at several schools, and not just in the Austin area.
When I told a friend about this I was asked about the difference between deviant behavior and “kids being kids”. Five years ago this would have been deviant behavior, but today there is a question. I find this concerning.
Several years ago in Colorado a 7 year old boy was required to register as a sex offender after peaking under a bathroom stall. Now, admittedly, I only have collateral information, but this was the talk of the Sex Offender Therapist world for a while as the concept of required registration was going through legislation. A couple of years ago a child, doing what children do, was required to register as an offender, name and picture on the internet. The scuttle-butt was that the registration was for life, based on Colorado law. That is completely unconfirmed.
Today though, it is accepted for boys to walk up behind other boys, and girls, grab their chest, wiggle it up and down and make lewd gestures and jokes. Protesting or complaining leads to comments such as “awww…can’t take a joke!” along with other demeaning and degrading comments, as well as rejection from the social group. On other words, social suicide.
Either the adults in the school are completely un-aware or ignoring the behavior. Can you imagine if one of your co-workers came up behind you and grabbed your breasts, jiggling them and making lewd comments? This would be grounds for termination, legal charges, etc. If you are an overweight man, think about having a friend do this to you regularly. Would they stay friends for long? Would they stay standing for long?
What is the difference between boys being boys, and the progression of sexual harassment to concerning levels? I know that I sound alarmist, but what happens when line after line is crossed? When violation of personal space and boundaries become common-place and the repercussions for stopping them can be severe. What happens when the boundaries are pushed even further and it is considered “kids being kids”?
The rules for addressing this are the same as the rules for addressing bullies:
- Be assertive. Remember to teach the difference between
assertive and aggressive, but teach the need to stand up for one’s self.
- Talk with others. Talk with parents, teachers, counselors
etc. Remember that adults are supposed to help, and if one person
doesn’t help keep asking others.
- Don’t walk alone. Bullies don’t often want to confront a group, that makes it more difficult to dis-empower.
with the bully. This often confuses the bully long enough to make a
graceful get-away. “Yup, I sure am a dork! Guess I’ll just have to
- Don’t react. Bullies want a reaction. That is the entire
reason to bully, is to make the other person feel powerless. If the
desired reaction is not given, eventually the bully will move on to
- Walk away. It isn’t running away, it is hard to bully someone’s back.
humor. Having humorous comments (humorous, not challenging or
sarcastic, We are looking to disarm, not create a fight or power –
play!) ready is often easier than coming up with something when stressed
and in the moment.
- And remembering that the power is in you.
We create our own reality, and I don’t have to listen to the reality of
the bully. If the bully teases me because I get poor grades, I don’t
have to let what they say hit me inside. I can allow myself to stay
strong even with their comments.
Encourage your children to tell the other kids to stop it. Then the rest of the advice applies to stopping the bullying. If the other child does not stop after the first request, make very sure that the administration at the school is aware of the problem, and be willing to bring in legal charges if necessary. Do we ever want a time when stop doesn’t mean stop?
This is not a case of “boys being boys”. This is bullying, straight and simple, and this is having serious effect on kids self esteem. Encourage your kids to talk about this, and make sure you are helping.